During the last few decades, interplanetary probes such as Magellan, Voyager 1 and 2, and the Viking Landers have sent us astounding images from the depths of space. Journalist, filmmaker, and artist Michael Benson carefully reviews these images and then digitally enhances the original raw data from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and other archives. Flawless and beautiful, the pictures look as though they were captured while Benson himself floated above the surface of each planet.
By studying these amazing images, we gain a deeper understanding of Jupiter’s bizarre moons and the varied landscapes of Mars and Venus. We can make virtual landings on the surfaces of Mercury and the Sun, fly by ethereal Neptune and Uranus, and soar between the rings of Saturn. Beyond is a comprehensive look at our solar system enhanced by educational text about the planets, their moons, and the probes themselves.
Author of the award-winning book Beyond: Visions of the Interplanetary Probes (Abrams, 2003), Benson allows us to journey through the solar system like never before, finally making other worlds accessible to earth-bound enthusiasts. This is truly the next best thing to hitching a ride on a space probe.
What are host museums saying about Beyond?
It was such an honor to host this spectacular show. What an opportunity it has been for our entire town to share in the beauty and scientific wealth of knowledge that Beyond brought to us. Thank you very much!
—Petaluma Museum, California
Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Cleveland, OH
The ETSU Natural History Museum, Gray, TN
Museum of Arts and Science, Macon, GA
Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, MA
Duluth Art Institute, Duluth, MN
Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, Santa Barbara, CA
Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, IL
Daura Gallery, Lynchburg College, Lynchburg, VA
California University of Pennsylvania, California, PA
The Petaluma Museum, Petaluma, CA
College of Central Florida, The Webber Center Gallery,
Stauth Memorial Museum, Montezuma, KS
Beyond: Visions of Interplanetary Probes, Harry N. Abrams, 2003. Hardcover. $22.00.
Author Michael Benson spent years compiling and digitally processing interplanetary images. In Beyond, Benson has pulled together the most spectacular of them into one volume that presents these photographs for the first time as art. The book shows us how modern science has revealed the astonishing beauty and mystery of the solar system and its awe-inspiring worlds far beyond any places human beings have ever directly observed.
Extraordinary Planetary Landscapes Captured in New Smithsonian Photography Exhibit
Media only: Jennifer Schommer 202.633.3121 Public only: 202.633.1000 or TTY 202.633.5285
The views of the solar system that one can see while standing here on Earth are often impressive, if not mindblowing. But from the inner solar system to its outer reaches, the closer and more detailed views of Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn and the other planets that have been achieved during the Space Age show unparalleled beauty and visions difficult to fathom. This otherworldly view, collected during 40 years of robotic space missions and then processed into breathtaking images, is the subject of the new Smithsonian traveling exhibition Beyond: Visions of Planetary Landscapes. The exhibit paints a rarely seen and mesmerizing portrait of our solar system’s diverse worlds and their moons.
Featuring 35 large-scale (ranging from 3 feet to 5 feet in width) framed prints containing 59 individual photographs, all digitally processed by artist Michael Benson, the exhibition debuts March 9, 2008 at the Monmouth Museum in Lincroft, NJ. Beyond will remain on view through May 4 and then continue on a national tour through 2010, traveling to cities such as Tucson, AZ; Cleveland, OH; Lynchburg, VA; Worchester, MA; Montezuma, KS; Santa Barbara, CA; and Chicago, IL.
The exhibit’s astonishing views of the solar system’s planets and their moons come primarily from NASA and European Space Agency missions. Benson mines planetary databases for his source material; then, using various techniques, including a mosaic or collage process, he pulls together the images to create seamless photographs of unprecedented clarity and realism. Throughout the process, Benson strives to stay true to the natural and breathtaking reality of space.
“My goal was to locate, digitally process and print some of the most extraordinary sights ever captured,” Benson said. “I view the photographic legacy of these missions as being a chapter in the history of photography.”
While humans have not set foot on any other planet and have not visited any satellite except Earth’s moon, robot creations have traveled to nearly every planet in the solar system, even landing on such varied surfaces as those of Mars, Venus and Saturn’s moon Titan. Through the photographs and data these probes send back to Earth, viewers can soar to the borderlands of the solar system without leaving the safety and comfort of this planet. Beyond shows that familiar geological formations and the atmospheric disturbances that take place on Earth also can be found on neighboring planets: the erupting volcanoes of Sicily find their counterpart in the lava eruptions of Jupiter’s moon Io; the moon’s deep craters are displayed alongside the “cantaloupe” terrain of Neptune’s moon Triton; the stormy clouds of Greenland can be seen alongside the “dust devils” of Mars.
The exhibition is divided into several sections, including the Inner Solar System, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. The show’s compositions include rare pictures of the sand dunes on Mars, storms on Neptune and the fiery eruptions of the sun. Beyond: Visions of Planetary Landscapes was created by Michael Benson and organized for travel by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES). The exhibition is accompanied by Benson’s award-winning book Beyond: Visions of the Interplanetary Probes (Abrams, 2003), which includes a forward by science-fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke. A paperback edition of the book will be released in spring 2008.
Michael Benson is a journalist and award-winning filmmaker (Predictions of Fire, 1995). His journalism has been published in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Atlantic and The Washington Post, among many other publications. He recently relocated from Ljubljana, Slovenia, to New York City.